With 2:20 left in the game on Friday, Carterville Coach Shane Hawkins used a time out to sub for his starting players. The game was essentially over, and somebody with a sense of the appropriate cranked up "Taking Care of Business" over the P.A. system in Thomas Gym.
The tune summed up the Panthers' businesslike win over the Lions in SIRR Conference play, leaving Panther Coach Bob Waggoner's squad at 16-2 on the season and 4-1 in the conference -- keeping them in contention for the conference crown, one game behind the Nashville Hornets who squeaked out a 35-34 win in a wild one at Du Quoin on Friday night.
The Panthers led for the entire game, starting with a Dawson Yates 3-pointer, followed by a pair of 3s by Ben Restoff. The Lions and Panthers traded baskets and switched from man-to-man to zone defenses for much of the first quarter. The Panther points came on a Hunter Riggins pivot move inside, Yates hitting another 3-pointer, and Grant Tanner pulling up for a field goal for a 16-11 Panther advantage.
Riggins and Yates hit 3s in the second quarter as both teams played their half-court games. The Lions countered with inside work by Eli Downen, who kept Carterville close. Hunter Riggins drew three offensive fouls on the Lions in the quarter to lead the Panther defense, and Devin Kitchen and Dré Scott chipped in offensively for the 27-21 lead at the half.
The Panthers adjusted after halftime, turning up the heat and the tempo. Scott's inside game netted 10 points in the third quarter, with Restoff canning another 3, and Yates and Duke Riggins finding seams in the Carterville zone for field goals on the way to a 44-31 Panther advantage after three quarters.
The final quarter showed the effects of the Panthers' pressure on the young Lions, allowing Kitchen, Yates and Tanner to score on high-percentage shots for Pinckneyville. Neither team shot consistently well from the outside, but the Panthers' variety of offensive weapons held off the Lions as the Panthers "took care of business" on their home floor.
Three Panthers finished in double-figures: Scott scored 14, Yates 13, and Restoff 10. Carterville's Eli Downen led all scorers with 23.
• The Panthers are at the Benton Tournament this week, playing Sesser at 7 p.m. on Monday; Hamilton County at 7 p.m. Wednesday; Meridian at 5:30 p.m. Friday. On Saturday they play Vandalia at 1 p.m. and host Benton at 8:30 p.m.